The Project

Project title: “Universities in society – real-life experiments in transformative learning and research processes for a culture of sustainability at universities”

  • Start date: October 2022
  • End date: September 2025
  • Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – funding measure: “Transformation paths for sustainable universities.”
  • Network: Freie Universität Berlin (FU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (HNEE), Leuphana University Lüneburg, University of Tübingen.
  • Network coordination: University of Tübingen
In recent years, a large number of initiatives and approaches have been developed and tested at universities in Germany to implement the guiding principle of sustainable development. Although new findings, concepts and methods for implementation at universities have been developed in this way, there is still a lack of integrative approaches that systematically link the various university fields of action as an overall institutional approach and promote a comprehensive “culture of sustainability” at universities.

The KuNaH joint project was launched in October 2022 as part of the BMBF funding guideline “Transformation Paths for Sustainable Universities”. It deals with the question of what a culture of sustainability at universities can look like and how it can be promoted and further developed as part of an overall institutional approach. A culture of sustainability is understood as the lived practice of sustainability in relation to formal and informal processes of shaping basic assumptions, goals, regulatory systems and systemic framework conditions.

How can a culture of sustainability at universities be conceptualized as an integrative aspect of a sustainability transformation, empirically investigated and stimulated through real-life experiments?

  • What features and areas of tension characterize a culture of sustainability at universities?
  • How do real-world experiments in collaborative learning processes at universities contribute to a culture of sustainability?
  • Which starting points promote or hinder the transformation processes for a culture of sustainability in relation to research, teaching and transfer in the sense of an overall institutional approach?
A culture of sustainability at universities is to be conceptualized, empirically investigated and described as an integrative aspect of a sustainability transformation and stimulated through real-life experiments. To this end, the project proceeds in two strands. On a conceptual-empirical level, characteristics, framework conditions, conflicts, dilemmas and leverage points of a culture of sustainability in universities are identified in order to form a basis for the development and implementation of sustainability measures. Linked to this is the second strand, in which approaches and concepts of a culture of sustainability are tested and realized in an experimental-transformative way. To this end, real-life experiments are designed and implemented, which are carried out with the involvement of various stakeholder groups – in particular students as change agents.


Network partners

The five partner universities of the network are characterized by their respective specific structures and prerequisites with regard to the implementation of sustainable development, which form the basis for the development of possible transformation paths.

University of Tübingen, International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)
In Tübingen, the initial focus is on exploratory analyses to describe a culture of sustainability, which for this purpose deals with the identification and use of leverage points, incentives, conflicts and synergy effects. In parallel, real experiments will be designed and conducted in the context of transformative learning and research processes. In the synthesis phase, the experiences and results of the network will finally be compiled and the coordination of the overall network will be organized over the entire project period.
Project Team +
Logo of the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde
The HNEE is a pioneer in sustainable university development and aims to further develop its sustainable university culture with this project. In the first year of the project, we develop the real experiments in co-design with various sustainability actors at the HNEE. In the second year of the project, we accompany the implementation of the real experiments (co-production) and subsequently evaluate them together with the participants. In the third year of the project, we combine the results of the real experiments with the conceptual findings across the university.
Project Team +
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Kit
The Karlsruhe Transformation Centre for Sustainability and Cultural Change (KAT) is involved in conducting stakeholder and environment analysis and takes care of the cooperative conception and implementation of the real experiments in specific areas at KIT. Furthermore, the KAT plays a role in monitoring the real experiments at the partner universities. For this purpose, an overarching orientation and documentation scheme is developed and, if necessary, individual advice is provided.
Project Team +
Leuphana University Of Lüneburg Logo
The Leuphana University sub-project supports the network by providing conceptual and methodological support for the real experiments and by developing integrated reporting in the sense of the Whole Institution Approach to synthesise the conceptual and empirical findings of all sub-projects, by adapted impact measurement of the implemented measures and identified transformative pathways, and by disseminating key findings of the project in existing networks (e.g. DG HochN).
Project Team +
Logo of the Freie Universität Berlin
In the project, the FU Berlin ties in with a variety of activities on sustainability, especially on campus. Specifically, the FU project team is responsible for preparing the concept of a culture of sustainability (CoS) conceptually and analytically and operationalizing it for empirical surveys. In addition to a systematic literature analysis on CoS in the context of the Whole Institution Approach, this includes, among other things, the development of a survey instrument to capture experienced sustainability in the culture of universities. In parallel, real experiments will catalyze transformation processes at the FU itself.
Project Team +

Associated Partners

© KeyOfBremen

Netzwerk Logo


Presentation of the Reallabor & Realexperiment Hub from 13.05.24 as part of the DGHoch N Hub series

The first page of the guest article in DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, 02/2024

Presentation of the KdN Hub from 25.04.24 (based on DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, 02/2024)

The first page of the guest article in DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, 02/2024
The first page of the guest article in DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, 02/2024

KuNaH – Poster from the 6th BMBF Symposium “Sustainability in Science”

Contribution: GAiA – Transformation paths for a culture of sustainability at German universities

Cover of the Communications booklet Transformation Paths for a Culture of Sustainability at German Universities


Network coordination

Go to Top